The following guest post was written by Chris. This is Part Two of a two-part post. Part One was posted last Sunday.
About four months after visiting my Sunday School teacher’s home, my mother suddenly had the idea that I needed to change Christian Science Sunday Schools in order to have a “man teacher”. It was suddenly imperative that I have a ‘man teacher’. How absurd! I already had a male Sunday School teacher I was quite happy with. I had been acquainted with him for about three years at that time. He was strong, thoughtful, intelligent, and had a great sense of humor. And he had, literally, saved my life some months earlier. What better example of a strong man could I have had?
But my mother had me uprooted from his class in order to go to the other Christian Science church in town. Once I got there, I realized there was not a single male teacher in the whole Sunday School. In the years I was there, among the women who taught me, were little old ladies that appeared to be on auto pilot, and a woman who used such heavy doses of pungent hair spray, that I found it difficult to breathe, sitting next to her (I’m not kidding).
However, the church organist (who happened to be a man), called me over to him, after the service had concluded. He really emphasized to me the importance of my getting braces. This was the first serious conversation I’d ever really had about getting needed orthodontic work done. I don’t know why he had such an interest in me, a child he didn’t know, but, looking back, I really appreciated his efforts in retrospect. He really wanted to help me. He called me over to him on three different occasions, and had the same conversation with me.
And all three times, when I went home, I told my mother about his advice. Every time, her reaction was the same: “You don’t need braces.” Then, closing her eyes, she would turn away from me (turning away from ‘material sense testimony’…?) and say, in that strange voice of hers: “Work it out in Christian Science.”
Does all of this sound crazy enough to you? I’ll leave it at that point in my childhood, only to say that the craziness continued. In my teens, she would go on to terrorize me over issues such as girls, sex, and dating.
Moving out at 19, I had to do everything I could to avoid my mother, staying away as much as possible. She would go on in later years to take Class Instruction
and, after that point, she was beyond impossible to be around. Every conversation revolved around how she could only be ‘right’, based on Christian Science. She also continued to be privately addicted to nicotine, so she obviously lied to the teacher she took instruction from. As I said earlier, she had no humility.
As far as my fear of the water was concerned, I decided to take swimming lessons at the age of 15. But I waited until I was in my mid-20’s to deal with my buck teeth. Faced with the prospect of going through life with buck teeth, I finally arranged to have orthodontic work performed. At times it was extremely painful, having that kind of work performed on an adult mouth, but it was worth it. The orthodontic work that should have been completed in childhood was finally accomplished.
For years, I wandered in the desert in terms of wondering how many other people had gone through similar experiences in Christian Science. After reading God’s Perfect Child by Caroline Fraser, Blue Windows by Barbara Wilson, and other books in recent years, and now, finding this website, I know I’m far from alone. This website is just simply a wonderful source of mental clarity. I appreciate it so much.
For many years, I’d sought counseling and therapy from people I’d gone to on my own, or had been referred to, receiving little, if any help. Yet upon going to a woman for the purpose of career counseling, I discovered, that through bringing up the subject of my mother in our sessions, that she was more than adequate to the task of addressing the issues with my mother. In fact, I found, she was really the person I’d been looking for, to help me address the craziness I’d been put through with my mother.
Growing up, my mother often claimed that I’d said or done things that I knew I’d never said or done. One of the things she would do would be to make some very cutting personal comment to me, and when I’d get upset because of it, she would say: “That’s alright. I know you love your mother. You’re just being handled.” (‘Handling’ being Mary Baker Eddy’s definition of outside forces controlling a person’s thinking). I KNEW there was no one out there trying to turn me against my mother (she was doing a very good job of that herself). But, hearing such a comment come from my mother, who constantly preached Christian Science, had a very disorienting affect on me.
The counsellor I went to understood the mind game my mother was playing on me, and one of the first things she did in our work was to have me rent the movie Gaslight, the 1944 movie directed by George Cukor. In the story, the husband (Charles Boyer) is trying to drive his wife (Ingrid Bergman) into madness. She has some very valuable jewelry hidden in their home, which he wants to possess. He would turn the gas lamps on and off in their home. His wife would question why the light was changing, and he would tell her that nothing had changed. “Are you alright, dear?” Or he would hide a needed object she was looking for, and after she had looked all over the house for the object, becoming frantic, he would secretly return it. She would come to him in a state of panic, unable to find it, and he would say, “Dear, it’s been there all the time. Nothing’s happened to it. Alright, dear, let’s go looking for it.” Then, of course, they would find the object, and he would tell her, professing his undying love: “Dear, it’s been here all the time. Are you sure you’re alright? Dear, I care VERY deeply for you, but I’m concerned about your stability…”
Preaching his love for her…all the while trying to push her over the edge. In seeing that movie, and the ruse the husband was using to convince his wife of her instability, was a salient moment for me. My mother had been doing the exact same thing to me, only under a different scenario, using Christian Science as cover. It was a VERY revelatory moment for me. The genuine therapy, the healing, in the truest sense of the word, came for me at that moment. I began really getting better at that moment. In time, I would eventually be free from my mother’s madness.